As we made our way across Banderas Bay to visit the small village of Yelapa, we referred to our guidebook which made the following comment; “A pelapa in Yelapa is better than a condo in Redondo” (referring to Redondo Beach, CA). When we made our final approach into the cove we instantly knew why. It felt like we were in the South Pacific as the cove was framed by large hills covered in lush vegetation and palm trees as far up as the eye could see. The shoreline consisted of a rocky shore to the left and right together with a beautiful, long beach in the center. Along the rocky shores and up into the hills were small houses (casas) covered with thatched roofs as well as some other, more modern homes. The beach was lined with palapas (they look like umbrellas with palm leaves) and open-air restaurants with tables and chairs in the sand.
We were immediately approached by a local in a panga who showed us to our mooring for the next 2 nights. Once we were settled in, we took the dinghy ashore with our friends, Eric and Birgitta, from Ariel IV. We meandered around the small cobblestone streets and made our way to the trail that led us along the shore to our right. We were amazed at how secluded the casas were amongst the dense vegetation. Many required walking up small and winding steps. All of these casas had their own names, for example Casa Orquidea (Orchid house), and most were rented out to vacationers. If you wanted peace and seclusion with a beautiful view, this was the place to go. The town was small and densely covered with buildings which ranged from houses to businesses to restaurants. The streets were so narrow that cars would not be able to make it through them. Actually, there wasn’t even a road to get to the town that would allow for cars. The only way in was by boat, horse or donkey. So, it was the norm to see people making their way around town on foot, donkeys, horses or ATVs.
It was amazing to see how deftly one man made his way around a steep and narrow road on horseback carrying a black bag of garbage while ducking under a hydro wire. We continued our exploration of the town and stumbled across a 150’ waterfall not far from the church. It was a picturesque setting, but we were told that there was a bigger waterfall to see and we looked forward to our trek the following day in search of it.
The next day we set out on our pursuit for the “big” waterfall. We were advised that it would be a 4 hour round trip, so we packed refreshments and lunch. At the beginning or our journey, we were walking along the “main road” out of town and within minutes we came across an entirely different Yelapa from what we had seen the prior day. The road turned to dirt, the vegetation grew denser and the houses became much simpler and less frequent. Many were built of brick but had no glass for windows and had bed sheets which served as doors. Some were fortunate to own horses, as this was one of the means of travel throughout Yelapa. And, interestingly enough, many had satellite dishes.
As we continued on, the humidity increased and the vegetation became denser. We saw many huge, old trees with vines attached and were reminded of the sets of the Tarzan movies. It really felt like a jungle. On occasion we would be passed by a man on a horse and we often searched for horse or donkey dung on the ground to ensure that we were still on the right trail to the waterfall. We were told that we would have to cross the river 3 times before reaching the waterfall and after doing so we were all anxious to finally view the “big” waterfall. However, the trail soon became difficult to manage and we were no longer seeing any horse/donkey dung when we came across a small waterfall with a nice “beach” and pool of fresh water. Eric trekked on further amongst the rocks to see if there was anything more to see ahead and we determined that this must be it. We were initially disappointed but decided to take advantage of the fact that we had the place to ourselves. We went for a fantastic and refreshing (topless) swim and enjoyed our own private Jacuzzi that the falls provided. Afterwards, we sunbathed on the sand and enjoyed lunch.
When we were ready to leave we bumped into another couple and asked them what they thought of the waterfall. They said it was beautiful! When we expressed our disappointment they advised us that what we had found was not the waterfall and that we had passed it. Upon our return to the boats we eventually found the true “big” waterfall which still wasn’t as high as the one in town. However, we considered it a serendipitous extended journey since we had found our own private haven that would not have been visited by the large organized tour that was travelling shortly behind us. Had we stopped at the proper tourist attraction we would not have had our own private Jacuzzi.